Not really a familiar name, his story which occurs near the end of the Book of Numbers is a great narrative. But the reason we read this brief passage today is that the blessing of Israel was proclaimed in the time when the people of Israel had spent their 40 years in the desert but had not quite reached the promised land. The fulfillment was almost at hand, just as for us Christmas is near but not here yet.
Two things worth remembering about Balaam.
The first is that he was a prophet, but not an Israelite, a sign that we can never put limits on where, when, and with whom God works.
Secondly, and perhaps more useful to us, he refused to speak anything that was not from God.
While none of us are likely to be prophets in the Old Testament sense, over these days surrounding Christmas we are going to spending a lot of time talking. Particularly with family, it can be challenging. Perhaps we should take a lesson from Balaam, pause before we speak, and ask one question: would God approve what I am about to say? And if the answer is no, it's time to change the subject.